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Arkansas Education Legislation Summary - 94th General Assembly

Updated: Jan 30

ARKANSAS EDUCATION LEGISLATION SUMMARY 2023


HB1688-This bill amends public school funding. It increases per-pupil funding from the current amount of $7,413 to $7,618 for the 2023-2024 school year. The bill would increase the amount to $7,771 for the 2024-2025 school year.



Act 237-LEARNS Act


  • Raises the minimum teacher salary to $50,000/year.

  • It raises current teacher salaries (already making $50,000) by $2,000.

  • Creates the Merit Teacher Incentive Fund providing bonuses of up to $10,000

  • Repeals the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act.

  • Offers 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, the cost of which is to be split by the state and the school district.

  • Creates a "Teacher Academy Scholarship Program," which covers tuition costs for prospective and current educators.

  • Increased student loan repayment plan from up to $3,000 to $6,000 per year

  • It requires that students be reading at a 3rd-grade level before advancing to the 4th grade. It also calls for 120 reading coaches to be deployed statewide and supplemental educational services for students struggling to read.

  • The bill creates the Education Freedom Account. Students who receive an Educational Freedom Account will get 90% of what public schools get per student in state funding from the previous school year.

  • The Educational Freedom Accounts program will be phased in over three years beginning with the 2023-2024 school year

  • Offers high school students the option of a career-ready diploma and requires high school students to complete 75 hours of community service before graduation.


Act 26 amends the law concerning dates for the beginning and end of the school year. It states the first day of the school year for public elementary and secondary schools shall be on or after the Monday of the week in which August 19 falls, not earlier than August 14, and not later than August 26.

HB1345. This bill increases the income tax deduction for a teacher’s classroom expenses from $500 a year to $750 a year


Act 461-This act eliminates a requirement that the state Board of Education to administratively consolidate school districts with fewer than 350 students into one or more school districts.




School choice:


Act 129-This bill states that a student who attended preschool in a non-resident school district for at least one year before kindergarten will not count against that school’s 3% cap of non-residents under the School Choice Act of 2015.

Act 189 states that a child whose parent or legal guardian relocates him or her to a nonresident school district may complete all remaining school years at the school district in which he or she is enrolled at the time of the relocation, regardless of the residency status of the child. However, that school district will not be required to provide transportation for the student to and from his or her original school district if the child's new residency status is outside the boundaries of his or her original school district.


SB458-This bill removes the May 1 deadline for children of active duty military families to apply for public school choice.


Act 426-This bill ensures international exchange students can attend the public school zoned for his/her host family. It also establishes rules for districts regarding exchange students.


Curriculum:


Act 48 establishes the last full week of January as Holocaust Education Week in Arkansas public schools.

Act 243- This bill creates an agricultural education pilot program in public elementary schools.


Act 242-This bill creates a means by which public school students may substitute comparable elective coursework in career and technical education for required core academic classes.


Act 290-This creates Mental Health Awareness Week in Public Schools.


Misc.:

Act 438-This bill expands eligibility of the Arkansas Concurrent Challenge Scholarship to 10th-grade high school students. Currently, the scholarship is available to high school juniors and seniors enrolled in an endorsed concurrent course or certificate program.


Act 20 allow employees of school districts to take a leave of absence for training in certain emergency and rescue services.


Act 100 states that for purposes of employment in Arkansas earning a high school diploma through the passage of a nationally recognized high school equivalency exam, such as the GED test, shall be treated the same as the receipt of a high school diploma from an accredited Arkansas secondary school.


Act 317 states that public schools and open-enrollment public charter schools shall designate multiple occupancy restrooms for exclusive use by the male sex or exclusive use by the female sex.

Act 238 outlines enhanced transportation funding for school districts.

Act 128 creates the Support for Pregnant and Parenting Students Act. It allows pregnant and parenting students to have an additional 10 days of excused absence for a parenting mother and father after the birth of their child.


Act 423- This bill would exclude students who pass a GED test or students who transfer to a home school or private school from inclusion in a school’s drop-out rate for purposes of a school performance report. (Act 423)


Act 425-This bill states that at each regular monthly meeting of a school district board, a report or presentation regarding student academic data or performance shall be provided to the board. (Act 425)

Act 448-This bill clarifies the requirement that schools grant excused absences to students who participate in 4-H activities.



SB477-This bill creates a means by which students who qualify for reduced-price meals at school receive free meals at school.


SB505-Establishes a means by which a public school may award a student a high school diploma before graduation if the student is terminally ill and currently in his or her final semester.



HB1529-This bill creates the Arkansas Adult Diploma Program. The purpose of the program is to assist adults 21 years of age and older to obtain a high school diploma and develop employability and career technical skills. It directs the Department of Education to develop and administer the program to provide for a modality that is campus-based, online, or blended.

SAFETY:

Act 286-This bill creates the Seizure Safe Schools Act. It states that by the 2024-2025 school year, the board of each public school district and the governing body of each private school or school district shall have at least 2 employees at each school who have met the training requirements necessary to recognize the signs and symptoms of seizures and the appropriate steps to be taken to respond.

HB1514-This bill requires that opioid overdose rescue kits be located on each campus of each public high school and state-supported institution of higher education.


Act 101 states that every public school and open-enrollment charter school shall provide parents with digital or hard copy information about local water safety education courses and swimming lessons offered for free or at a reduced price.



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